I am not even sure how to title this blog. After someone we love dies, it’s all hard. There’s nothing easy about heartbreaking loss.
For me, after losing my 15 year old daughter, there were aspects of the grief process that I confronted quickly, directly and aggressively. For example, I spoke at my daughter’s funeral. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I had the ability to be articulate and not break down in tears. Well, yes, I do know. My love for her and desire to honor her gave me the adrenaline I needed to get through that experience. And only with God’s help.
Also, the first four years after Leah passed away, I was an assertive advocate for Make-A-Wish – speaking at events for them and leading a Walk for Wishes team in Leah’s memory for three years. My drive was to give back to Make-A-Wish. Our Wish trip to Paris was an incredibly wonderful gift. It was something positive on which to focus during Leah’s illness. As our last family vacation with Leah, the trip is a true memory to cherish.
One area of deep pain and avoidance has been going through her “stuff” and clearing out her bedroom. The first couple of years, I tried to go in her room. I even wrote a blog post about it. Yet, after I wrote that post, I shut the door and didn’t return for a very long time.
I wasn’t at peace going in her room. And I wasn’t at peace not going in her room.
It wound up being easier for me to avoid the whole experience. Her bedroom door stayed shut for more than four years.
Yet, every so often, I felt a nagging voice say, “You really need to get her room done. There are nice things our family and her friends can enjoy.”
Finally, the pestering voice won. For the last several months, I spent hours going through my daughter’s things and selecting items that I want to keep and items that I was open to giving away. Notice I said, “open to” giving away…
My husband and I are very different on this topic. He is very understanding and gracious. He’s given me the space to deal with her things in the best way that I can.
Going into her room felt like stepping back in time. Many items were left exactly where she placed them – books, clothes, stuffed animals, jewelry, photos, etc. It shocked me that there was no dust in the room.
This past month, I had friends, who were very close to Leah, pick out a few things before returning to college. I was worried her friends wouldn’t want to come to our home and go through her things. It has been almost five years. Happily, they were appreciative to select items that belonged to Leah.
Like so many moments after losing my daughter, this experience was bittersweet. It brought sadness and happiness. It is always wonderful to see Leah’s friends; I felt joy as they expressed their connection to her and her memory. It was meaningful to hear the reasons that they picked either a piece of jewelry, stuffed animal or Eiffel tower.
Other people I know dealt with personal belongings quickly after a death – clearing out items within a couple weeks.
For me, I just couldn’t do it.
I’ve probably kept more of Leah’s items than I need, but it will be a process of releasing and letting go. The experience of clearing out her things feels like another goodbye – another sad goodbye.
I know that I am sentimental about “stuff,” I’ve learned to accept this fact about myself – items have meaning. I fully understand that the things aren’t Leah and they can never replace her.
A major step, in confronting the permanence of my loss, is complete.
One day, I may let most things of Leah’s go. For now, I have several boxes.
One item that I will never ever give away – Leah’s Bitty Baby Doll.
The joy on her face when she opened this Christmas present was priceless.
Do what you need to do – at your own pace – while being kind to yourself – and let your love win!
My Little Miss with her favorite American Girl Dolls. The first two!